404 – Page Not Found (Just Kidding!)
“Page not found” is never a great experience for your website visitors. No need to panic – I’ve got you covered with my Website Toolkit (for WordPress). It finds broken pages, links, and many other issues.
Hi, my name is Dave and I’m on a one man endeavour to help website owners get their sites in better (technical) shape with the minimum of fuss, and with this mini-series, zero expense.
That’s right. Everything covered in this series will be possible to do with my free tier. No credit card required, you don’t even need to fill in a form (I didn’t make one).
My free tier includes a weekly check and is sponsored to help cover some of the running costs.
For those needing assistance, additional checks or other advanced features, I offer two annual paid tiers. To request your own free site check, to find out more about my paid plans, or if you are interested in sponsorship please visit my website: https://website-toolkit.co.uk
One man can make a difference
Website Toolkit is a relatively new service. It is not a venture capital backed startup with a team of people behind it.
It is just myself tinkering away in my spare time a couple of evenings a week once the kids have finally settled down. I’m saying this now to prime you for later on in the article, trust me.
Before I get started, who is the Website Toolkit for?
My toolkit is useful for pretty much any WordPress site owner, maintainer, or agency with WordPress based clients. I thought I’d go niche with 30%+ of the Internet.
In reality I see the most likely audience as small to medium businesses with lead generation sites. These types of companies may be out-sourcing their site to an agency, or have a small marketing team maintaining a site alongside their other duties.
This is why an automated tool to keep an eye on issues for them would be worth the time saving, and more importantly the peace of mind. They have a lot of other tasks to get on with and doing periodic checks on their website will either be low down that task list or not even on it!
When their sites are not working correctly that could mean lost leads / prospects, and that results in lost revenue. With the current financial struggles everyone is under every pound / dollar / euro etc counts.
Don’t panic if you aren’t a B2B lead generation site. Online shops, professional blogs and everything in between can still benefit from Website Toolkit and more importantly this mini-series.
Anyway enough of the waffle, let’s get started!
Like to follow along? If you would like to work with your own website’s results please drop me an email via the big green button at the bottom of my website.
I manually approve submissions to make sure some smart person doesn’t enter Google.co.uk, keep that in mind if you are interested at 2am in the morning. For websites who have signed up to my free tier they will receive an email once a week.
Let’s start at the end with the results email
Rather than spending a lot of development time building a fancy looking SaaS (Software as a Service) website (with mandatory dark mode), I’ve kept it simple. Really simple. I’ve focused on how to get value to people in the most accessible way.
To prove you can work in different ways I’m using Google Sheets on my mobile to check the provided CSV files and also take some screenshots. Perfect for those with a commute on the train (remember when people had to go to the office?).
The email subject line
The subject line will change based on good news, not so great news, or bad news. If it has “IMPORTANT NOTES” at the front you’d want to review it quite quickly.
For “Content Issues” these might be less important but still need to be looked at, you can finish your cup of tea first.
The summary email
Here is an example of the email you’d receive. Easy to read on any type of modern device.
The top section will highlight any potential issues that have been uncovered. These currently include:
- Broken links / downloads
- Missing images
- Other content issues like “Lipsum” placeholder text left in the page, broken YouTube embeds etc.
- How long did it take to check your site
- How much page content was found
- How much content was listed in your Sitemap, but not directly linked to from on-page content
- Percentage of cached content (if your hosting provides caching to speed up page loads)
- Bandwidth used
- How many days till your SSL certificate expires.
- What your favicon is set to
At the time of writing there are five result files and an audit summary, which has key stats similar to the results email.
The files match up closely with the types of checks listed in the summary email, so you’d know which one to focus on first. We will be using these files to locate the various issues on my test site.
“What test site?” you ask. That’s coming up next.
My Test Site: https://webspeedcachecrawler.co.uk
The early version of Website Toolkit was actually called WebSpeedCacheCrawler. Its name has changed twice since then, but I kept the domain for testing purposes.
You are welcome to use this URL as it has a number of intentional issues. It will become more broken over time as I try out new ideas, don’t worry if your results differ from those listed here.
- Broken links
- Broken Google Maps on contact page
- Private YouTube embed
- Loads of lorum lipsum placeholder text
- Dummy script injection as a pretend attack
Finding broken links with the “Content” File
Well done for making it this far. I’ll now show you how you can quickly find some actionable broken links.
I currently don’t have an online reporting area to log in to where you can view and track your results, so load up MS Excel, Google Sheets, or similar. While the keyboard shortcuts may differ you should be able to do the same types of filtering.
Download shared files: Website Toolkit Shared – Google Drive
Download and open the “content-” file and expand the first four columns, A B C D. These show the status of the page / file, any content notes, the relevant url and its parent.
In Excel CTRL ALT L will enable filtering. Click on A1 and change the filter to “Not Found”.
With the filter applied I can see there is a link to “/contact/brokenlink” and it’s from the home page (col D).
I know it’s the button at the bottom of the home page as I broke it on purpose, however for live sites you might need to get your hands dirty and check out the page source code.
I’ll save you from digging around in html for now and we’ll just pretend you spent 3mins waving mouse over contact links to find it, then you let the relevant person know what to fix.
Hovering over this particular “Contact us now” button will show the link in the bottom corner of the browser.
Subliminal sales message: Helping to track down where issues may be is one of the benefits of my premium plan, I poke around your html so you don’t have to.
Investigating Content Notes
We have found and fixed our broken links, yay! That is a good starting point but we aren’t out of the woods yet. The summary email had a big number for content notes. Let’s take a look at a couple of those.
Clear your filter on col A and swap to col B. Select “Check Google Maps Embed” and apply it. Currently two results have been returned on two different pages.
It looks like our home page and “where we work” have potential issues.
The home page example is very easy to spot so I’d be surprised if any site owner didn’t notice that one.
The “where-we-work” page however is a bit more interesting. This particular theme has the map show up if you click on a “view map” link.
Unless you clicked on a location you’d never see that it failed to load in its popup. Another good find Website Toolkit, so that’s why my pretend business never had any footfall.
YouTube Embeds not working
This time we will adjust the filter on col B to “YouTube”.
I currently have one video on the homepage that is set to private, in this instance it’s an easy find.
The file will also provide the embed URL. These details can be passed to the content team to either make it visible again or provide a link to a suitable replacement video.
Well done, you have reached the end of part 1. If you were following this guide with results from your own site I’d be interested to hear how you got on and what issues you found.
For those reading carefully there were two additional issues listed on the test site that I haven’t talked about. Using the “content” file see what else you can find.
Feel free to drop me an email by replying to your own results email, or message me on twitter @website_toolkit.
If you skim read and missed the part on getting your own results then tsk tsk. Pop over to https://website-toolkit.co.uk and click the big button in the site footer.
Thanks for reading. See you next time!
*Update: part two is now live, so take a look at the WordPress Website Toolkit Part Two, spoiler alert, there’s a giveaway as well.